What I Would Do Differently on My 2023 PCT Hike

What if you could go back?

The phenomenon of impermanence is present in everyone’s lives. Not to delve too deeply, but I choose to wake with a conscious knowledge that time is infinite, yet mine is limited. It allows me to find gratitude as I start my workday. Whether I choose to dread it or not, it will pass, along with every day I have lived up until now. I make an effort to not reimagine my days again, as I tend to criticize them, always seeking improvement. My daydreams often ponder the ‘what ifs’ of life’s possibilities. So, what if we could rewind and live part of our life again? Would you change it?

          I only backpacked one night before I reached the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. I had 2,650 unknown miles ahead of me, a lot to experience as a newbie. Here’s what I would do differently knowing what I know now.

A sunrise in Washinton engraved in my memory

Cold Soaking

I glanced at my Talenti cup decked out with stickers in front of my tent. I really didn’t want to open my food bag and attempt to cold soak rice pilaf, but I couldn’t bear another night of apple cinnamon oats mixed with vanilla Breakfast Essentials. The fun stickers helped the appeal of taking out the container, but nothing could prepare me for what was sure to be crunchy rice on a scorching hot day in the desert.

I had never cold soaked before the PCT, but I had also never used a portable stove. As I assembled my gear for this 2,650-mile hike, I weighed my options: a $5.99 ice cream that I could eat right then and also use as my food container? Or a $100 stove setup, with no ice cream involved. It was a no-brainer. If I were to hike the PCT again, knowing what I do now, I would NOT start cold soaking. I wasn’t eating enough, and I was definitely jealous of my fellow hikers whipping out their hot Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese at dinner. In Idyllwild CA, mile 179, I caved and bought my first stove. With the help of my hiker friend T-bone, I set it up to make, you’ll never guess, some rather burnt Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese because apparently cooking it on a tiny stove is a science

Planning Shoe Resupply

I had a rough estimate of when I’d need new shoes. Instead of buying replacement shoes in advance, I decided to wing it. When my shoes started falling apart, I’d buy them online and pray they arrived in time. Somewhere between miles 300-400, I developed gnarly shin splints, or rather, shin splint singular; it was only my right leg. I attributed it to overworking myself in the days prior, and my shoes needed new insoles. After getting new insoles, I took a solid two-day zero in the town of Wrightwood. Each time I needed a new pair of shoes, I felt rushed to order them before I was forced to walk barefoot

In Norcal, I had a pair where the tread completely came off after only 100 miles; my beloved Topos had failed me. Although my previous pair lasted just over 800 miles. While the stress of getting shoes in time was quite an adventure, if I were to go back and do it again, I’d buy a couple of pairs of shoes ahead of time. I’d line them up as if preparing for a shoe shortage, like people stocking up on toilet paper during Covid.

My friend Forecast and what remained of his Altras


If could go back, I’d write more for this blog. My goal was to write a blog post every week, or with each section. As soon as my head hit my dirt-stained Thermarest, I was out. There was no writing before bed. Every time I got to town to resupply, I wanted to chow down on a burger, shovel a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream into my mouth, and get back on the trail. Writing was not at the forefront, clearly. Any goal requires self-discipline. I had the passion and self-discipline to hike, but I lacked it when it came to writing. If I were to do it again, I’d make journaling a bigger priority. I cherish the couple of journal entries I made in my notes app; they transport me back.

I was on the front porch of the Kennedy Meadows general store, writing a short entry into my notes, when I overheard a conversation through my earbuds. I only heard two men’s voices saying, “you don’t know it till it’s gone”, the other voice responded, “I guess it makes us tougher”. I don’t know what they were talking about. Although I don’t typically eavesdrop, their words resonated with me. I immediately wrote it down in my notes app. We don’t think about a time in our lives being gone until it has passed us. We often fail to appreciate a moment until it has passed. Instead of dwelling on its absence, we can leverage it to strengthen ourselves.

Hiking With Others More Often

A trail family (tramily) can be tricky sometimes because it’s important to hike your own hike and stick to your schedule. However, I believe the trail isn’t just about hiking and living in the woods; it’s also about the people and camaraderie.

In the desert, I began hiking with a group out of Paradise Cafe for the upcoming snowy section of Apache. Unfortunately, one morning right before the WhiteWater Creek crossing, I woke up at 6 am thinking they’d be right behind me, and we’d meet if I took a long break. That was not the case; I didn’t see them for at least a week. I met my second tramily right before Kennedy Meadows. There were a couple of side trips in Oregon I could have taken with the group, such as a couple of lake resorts, but due to my schedule, I opted out. I also chose to leave a couple of towns earlier than them. I’ll never get to spend time with them on the trail again. I think about that often now.

Thrift and I at the watchman tower, Crater Lake National Park.

The Sierra Section

The snowpack in the Sierra in 2023 reached record highs. My group hiked from Kennedy Meadows South to Kearsarge Pass, and it was an incredible experience. Witnessing the sunrise over the snowy Sierra made waking up at 3 in the morning and trekking through freezing creeks worthwhile. The serenity of the mountains under the blanket of snow was unmatched. However, I ultimately decided not to continue hiking through the Sierra. While sitting outside Hostel California in Bishop, my group leaned heavily towards flipping up to Oregon. If I had continued, I would have had to find a new group to join, as I didn’t feel safe going alone. Although I heard that hikers ahead of me were making it to Mammoth, I chose to play it safe and flip. I didn’t want to risk not being able to hike more of the trail if I happened to get injured. Later on, as I met hikers who had completed the entire Sierra section, I felt a sense of regret. I realized that I was fully capable of hiking the entire Sierra, and I believe I could have pushed myself more.

Frypocket and Olf under moonlight the morning before our ascent up Forester Pass


I didn’t know exactly how to budget for a thru-hike. I conducted a lot of research to understand how other hikers spend their money on long hikes. My plan was to spend as little as possible on hotels. Going into it, I knew I had signed up to sleep on the ground, not in a bed. However, there were a few times I split hotel costs with other hikers or stayed at hostels. This was more convenient in some towns that lacked campgrounds and were far from the trail.

I didn’t prepare resupply boxes ahead of time, I did send myself a couple of bounce boxes containing food or gear. I should have factored in the cost of shipping into my budget. Another unexpected expense was replacing or purchasing new gear. As mentioned, I bought a stove while on the trail. I also needed leggings for added warmth, insoles, a new water filter and a bladder after losing mine. Additionally, I bought a more comfortable sun hoodie, socks, Dirty Girl Gaiters, —items I didn’t anticipate wanting. A huge expense I didn’t expect was transportation when I flipped up to the Oregon/Washington border, I didn’t expect to flip at all, I had envisioned a complete thru-hike. Sometimes, there’s no way to foresee such needs until you’re in the situation, but taking precautionary steps is always wise.

Hikers know you can never hike back, only forward. I wish I could relive my experience on the PCT every day, but the beauty of time moving forward means we can relish in those sweet memories, enjoy the now, and know that a time will come again where we will meet another trail with the knowledge from the past to make us stronger. If I had changed things about my hike, I could be in a completely different place from where I am now; it would be a completely different memory. One action can completely rewrite the future.

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